On gently sloping ground to the northwest of Athens’ iconic Acropolis is the city’s Agora – the civic and commercial centre of ancient Athens. On our tour, we will explore its history and monuments reflecting the changing fortunes of the Athenians throughout Classical times and, most significantly, the advent of democracy. In this tour we will identify buildings of the judiciary, executive and legislature — the three bastions of a democratic system. We will take stock of other public buildings, marketplaces and fountains as well as the important Temple of Hephaestus, perhaps the best-preserved temple in the Greek world. Whilst the temple is in a fine state of repair, many of the Agora’s other monuments can only be recognised by their foundations, so bring your imaginations with you!
Avoid the Crowds
Allows you to explore without having to be shoulder-to-shoulder in a large tour group
Written by a Cambridge-based archaeologist, whose postgraduate (MRes) research has been devoted to Early Iron Age architecture
Easy-to-follow GPS directions to get you from one point to the next on your tour
We will visit the best-of-the-best sites in Agora
Remote Tour Included
As with all our tours, a remote tour is included that can be enjoyed from home
- Adrianou - From our first tour point, on the pleasant pedestrian street of Adrianou, we will introduce what the Agora is and define its boundaries in ancient times.
- Altar of the 12 Gods - Close to the boundary of the Agora, the Altar of the 12 gods was one of the earliest monuments set up in the area. It has almost completely disappeared from view, underneath the Athens to Piraeus metro line. A small corner now shaded by the trees to the south of the tracks is all that survives. Nevertheless, we will discuss from here this early monument and the development of the agora into a civic centre in Athens during the sixth century BC.
- Stoa of Zeus and The Royal Stoa - The Agora was a multifaceted space from the get-go and within a generation, home to a number of buildings that served the public in different ways. Here we consider one of the earliest political buildings that can be identified in Athens alongside its neighbours, constructed for different reasons altogether.
- The Temple of Hephaestus - Arguably the best-preserved temple in Greece, the Temple of Hephaestus has become a standard that architectural historians return to as the ‘quintessential’ Greek temple. Built at the zenith of Athenian power in the mid-fifth century BC, it is a shining example of the Athenian’s success and willingness to express itself artistically.
- The Monument of Eponymous Heroes - Sitting opposite some of the city’s state offices and buildings was a curious monument that celebrated Athens’ organisation into tribes. The tribes, a bit like municipalities or constituencies, was how democracy was organised in Ancient Athens, through which individual citizens were represented and information disseminated to them.
- Tholos, Bouleterion & Metroon - The three buildings sat together along the western edge of the Agora perhaps ranked as the most politically important in Athens. We know a huge amount about their function and role from ancient writers, from Aristotle to Aristophanes, yet the buildings themselves have not faired so well. Nevertheless, we will stand next to the circular foundations of the Tholos and imagine ourselves at the heart of Athenian democracy — where statesman and senators would rub shoulders and the political agenda of the day debated.
- South Square - In addition to the addition of the Metroon on the western flank of the Agora, a large complex of new stoas was added during the second century BC on the southern side. These sought to serve the commercial needs of the city and formalise its merchants into an aggrandised official marketplace.
- Mint & Fountain house - Following the clearance of the existing domestic quarter in the sixth century by the Tyrant Peisistratos, the Agora quickly adapted to the requirements of a large space at the centre of public life. Alongside civic buildings and shopping areas, public amenities were also required, namely, the provision of water.
- Stoa of Attalos - The bright columns and orange roof of the Stoa of Attalos dominate the entire eastern edge of the Agora. Another great gift to the city in Hellenistic times, it has now been completely reconstructed to house the Agora’s museum.
- Odeion of Agrippa - When Rome seized control of Greece, its emperors were tireless in rebuilding parts of its cities. Seeking simultaneously to stamp the authority of their new order but show their reverence to the Greek’s development of art and architecture, the agora was not alone in receiving its share of imperial vanity projects and peace offerings.
- Temple of Ares - You perhaps would not have been able to tell but demarcated by the trees at the northern fringe of the Agora is a temple dedicated to Ares. Similar in size and date to the Temple of Hephaestus but in a much worse state of preservation, this building is an example of what is thought to be a phenomenon called the ‘wandering temple’.